After conflicting reports throughout the day, the Patriots have indeed opted to release wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Patriots' decision to cut Ochocinco brings his short and disappointing stint with New England to an end, a stint that initially came with high expectations, but resulted in minimal on-the-field results. Ochocinco was certainly an entertaining player to cover, was very likable, and undeniably still had talent. However, he simply was never able to match the mental aspect of the game with his physical abilities during his time with the Patriots.
Many fans, with the news of Ochocinco's release, are undoubtedly asking, why release him just months after he took a pay cut to remain with the team? While we'll never know for sure, my best bet is that the team figured that by this point, Ochocinco was never going to have a full grasp of the offense. Knowing that, even if there was an injury to a key player at the position, the team would rather have a player such as Donte Stallworth or Julian Edelman taking meaningful snaps than Ochocinco.
The Patriots have now released three total veteran receivers from a crowded depth chart since the beginning of May: Ochocinco, Anthony Gonzalez, and Tiquan Underwood. That being said, the picture at wide receiver is beginning to become a bit more clear:
My thoughts on each player on the depth chart after the jump!
Wes Welker: Regardless of whether or not he signs an extension before training camp, Welker is the Patriots #1 receiver, and best slot option.
Brandon Lloyd: Lloyd, as expected, has emerged as the team's top outside threat at receiver thus far during OTA's. He looks like a lock for the #2 spot.
Jabar Gaffney: Gaffney's chemistry with Tom Brady has left off where it was in 2008, his last year with the team. He looks like a lock for a roster spot at this point, and should play a key role for the team in 2012.
Deion Branch: Could be competing with Donte Stallworth for one last roster spot, isn't the athlete he once was, but is still a savvy receiver who has excellent chemistry with Tom Brady.
Donte Stallworth: Should see more practice reps with Ochocinco's release, but is far from a lock for the team. He offers the most explosion and speed of any other player on the depth chart, an attribute this group lacked in 2011.
Julian Edelman: Should make the roster due to his versatility as a punt returner and on defense. Is still an option as a developmental slot receiver.
Matthew Slater: Is a perceived roster lock due to his special teams prowess, and due to the fact he just re-signed on a longterm deal with the team.
Jeremy Ebert: 7th round pick out of Northwestern is a developmental slot receiver, who looks like a solid practice squad candidate with legitimate NFL potential.
Britt Davis: Big target who is a practice squad candidate.
Matt Roark: 6'5" UDFA from Kentucky who can play quarterback. Practice quad candidate.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: The release of Chad Ochocinco, from my perspective, means more practice snaps for bubble players such as Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, and Donte Stallworth. While I wouldn't rule out a scenario where the Patriots keep all three of those players as each have their own set of strengths and witnesses, my best bet is that the Patriots keep two of the three aforementioned. At this point, locks for the roster appear to be Welker, Lloyd, Gaffney, and Slater.